US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, in a phone call with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, reiterated Washington’s firm position on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, while NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg affirmed the alliance’s support for Kiev at the political and military levels.
In his call with Lavrov, Blinken stressed the importance of the diplomatic track on Ukraine. This comes as the US Secretary of State is preparing for a European tour that includes Kiev and Berlin.
According to a statement by the US State Department, the tour comes within the framework of “intensive diplomacy with our European allies and partners to develop a unified approach to confronting the threat posed by Russia to Ukraine, and our joint efforts to encourage it to choose diplomacy and reduce escalation, in a manner that serves security and stability.”
commitment and effort
Blinken is scheduled to start the tour by visiting Kiev, where he will meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday, “to confirm the commitment of the United States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
The next day, Blinken plans to go to Germany “to discuss joint efforts to deter Russia from further aggression against Ukraine.”
Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine, and has demanded that its southern neighbor not be allowed to join NATO, in addition to not deploying any offensive weapons there or in any of its neighboring countries.
Some forces began returning to their bases after conducting exercises near Ukraine.
Dialogue and readiness
For his part, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg renewed the alliance’s support for Ukraine at the political and military levels.
During a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Schultz in Berlin, Stoltenberg expressed NATO’s readiness to dialogue with Russia and listen to its concerns, stressing that the alliance will not give up the policy of open doors on the accession of new countries.
The Secretary-General also called on Russia and NATO allies for more discussions on Ukraine as diplomatic efforts intensified in recent weeks.
“Today, I invited Russia and all NATO allies to participate in a series of NATO-Russia Council meetings in the near future to address our concerns, but also to listen to Russia’s concerns and try to find a solution” to get out of the crisis, he said.
Stoltenberg sent a message to Russia and warned it against using force against Ukraine, stressing that it would pay a heavy price by imposing economic, financial and political sanctions on it, if it did so. He reiterated the “support of NATO allies” to Ukraine.
For his part, the German chancellor called for overcoming differences through dialogue and international law.
German Foreign Minister Annalina Birbock held talks with her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, following a similar visit to Kiev.
The two sides’ discussions dealt with the developments of the situation in Ukraine, the security guarantees that Russia is requesting from the West, in addition to energy issues.
Bierbock stressed that the new German government is looking for strong and stable relations with Russia, but without compromising the basic values of Germany and the European Union related to the sovereignty of states.
For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that his country is awaiting a response from Washington and NATO regarding its proposals for security guarantees in order to continue negotiations.
During a press conference with his German counterpart Annalina Birbock, Lavrov stressed that his country does not threaten anyone and will not accept any demands related to the Russian army’s movements on Russian soil in return.
In this context, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will brief his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Moscow’s talks with NATO, when he travels to Beijing in February.
Putin is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing on February 4. The rapprochement between Russia and China has increased with both coming under increasing pressure from the West over Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine and trade and human rights in China.